Rough housing, exploring nature, and testing limits – Joseph explains the ways in which some men show love to their sons.
Jennifer L. W. Fink’s article, 14 Ways to Tell Your Son “I Love You” offers excellent examples of how women show love. Here’s how I think a man does it:
1) Get him to work in the yard with you. Share your work with him, letting him know that his input is valuable and that his choices and actions affect the world around him: that he has agency.
2) Teach him about the birds and the bees (literally). Explore wildlife. Teach him their eating and mating and living and dying habits. Teach him to identify animals, and what role they play in the real world.
3) Raise animals with him, whether it be worms, or chickens or beetles or fish or snakes. This not only teaches him the cycles of life, but to appreciate what the world outside of a hyper-clean sanitary plastic-covered world looks like. It teaches him long-term thinking and quite frankly, it’s fun!
4) Be athletic with him. Roughhouse with him. Play physical games. It can be as simple as “race you to the end of the dock” to “let’s see what you can lift”. This teaches a boy to surpass his current physical state. Teach him the importance of being able to run, climb, lift, push, crawl, and swim. This will teach him that a skinned knee is nothing more than that. He will learn to not allow pain to dominate. This teaches him his current limitations and how to surpass them, thus creating body confidence, which may translate to his being a good worker, dancer or lover.
5) Teach him to use tools. This engenders self-trust by creating competence, teaching him that he can handle physical matter. It also teaches him that he is trusted for his ability to learn and that he has the ability, with proper teaching, to be left alone and create. You can also use this opportunity to teach him about aesthetics, how to create beautiful things, and well as problem solving.
6) Teach him how to fight (age-appropriate). A boy who has no ability to respond, or is unprepared to face a bully will be left with a gnawing sense of self-doubt in a world that expects him to be able to handle himself. Teach him the habits of humans, when to talk, when to fight and when to egress. When a boy has options before conflict occurs, he’ll know that he can handle it.
7) Teach him practical skills: How to grow food, store it and prepare it; how to interact with people; how to fix his bike; how to use math in daily life; how to think critically; how to dig a hole or cut down a tree; how to nail boards together or fit pipes together or how to piece together simple electrical systems. Praise him legitimately for actual accomplishments, patiently coach him though his rough spots.
8) Go collecting junk on the beach or in the forest. Go dumpster diving. This is not only a fun, but can teach him about being resourceful, thinking outside of the box, to be aware of the opportunities that surround him. Get him to think of a neat project you can do together and go hunting for the pieces, rather than buying them.
9) This one I stole from Richard Branson’s parents and John Taylor Gatto: give him physical challenges. “Go deliver this to Aunt Jane by bicycle 10 miles away. Make sure you’re back by 3 o’clock.”
10) Observe what he’s naturally good at and what he’s not so good at. Help him stretch his sense of self and of what he is legitimately capable of doing, and what his legitimate limits are. Teach him about the real world, and the impact of his actions on it, relative to his ability to learn. Take the time to have fun with him and explore this.
11) Make sure that you shut everything down at supper time, and that that time is used for family togetherness. Make it part of the routine where everyone in the family must learn one thing and share it a supper time. When he speaks, actually listen to him, actively question him.
12) Find a nice quiet place, a forest, a lake, a dock or a park and just sit and be with the boy. Eat ice cream and stare at the clouds or the stars. Often men bond though silence as much as they do though speech or action.
13) Be physically affectionate with him. Pick him up; carry him on your shoulders. Put your arm around his shoulders, scruff up his hair.
14) Rather than teach him self-esteem directly, teach him to live a life that he can be proud of and enjoy living.
The best thing you can do to show love to your boy is to be there and be involved with him, all while teaching him how to handle the world. He’ll thank you for it as an adult.
Lead photo: Flickr/roland